FRINGE 4.11 ‘Making Angels’

The two Astrids finally meet as the duel Fringe teams pursue a killer who believes he is saving his victims from future suffering.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Making Angels"

Writers: Akiva Goldsman & J. H. Wyman & Jeff Pinkner

Director: Charles Beeson

Previously on "Fringe":

Episode 4.10: "Forced Perspective"

Story:

In a doctor's office, Chet Williams (Jeb Beach) is told that he has a type of skin cancer that 95% of patients can usually beat. As he waits for a bus, the obviously depressed Chet is approached by Neil Chung (Chin Han), who tells him that the doctor is wrong. Chet will die horribly from renal and respiratory failure. After a bus passes by, Neil is gone while Chet lies dead on the bench with blood pouring from his eyes like tears. On the alternate Earth, the counterpart of Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) — or "Kick-Astrid" as I like to call her — uses the bridge to cross over into our world without authorization.

In the alternate Fringe office, Colonel Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) is livid about Kick-Astrid's apparent defection. But the alternate Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) — aka Fauxlivia — and Lincoln Lee (Seth Gabel) volunteer to bring her back. In the lab of Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), his timelost son Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) is frustrated over Walter's constant food breaks while trying to figure out the Doomsday Device. Kick-Astrid enters and Walter realizes that she is from the alternate world when she corrects his mangling of her name.

Our Olivia and Astrid arrive shortly thereafter, giving Astrid the shock of her life in the process. Quickly realizing that her double has Asperger's, our Astrid shows compassion for her counterpart and she comes to understand that Kick-Astrid's father recently died and that she came to our world just to find someone she could speak to. Olivia is then notified that her double is coming to pick up Kick-Astrid when they get called out to investigate Chet's death. But Walter is happy to babysit Kick-Astrid and he even gets her name right; which annoys our Astrid.

As Walter and Kick-Astrid observe the investigation of Chet Williams' body, Fauxlivia arrives and Walter disparages her as a Viper and "Mata Hari" for fooling him so badly when she took Olivia's place. With the rest of the team back in Walter's lab, Kick-Astrid and Walter work well together and theorize that the poison used by the killer couldn't exist yet. Meanwhile, an Observer steps through a window and reports that he has "located it." Elsewhere, a woman named Kerry Watson (Jessie Fraser) is confronted by Neil about the way her alcoholism will destroy the people that she loves. When Kerry tries to walk away, Neil holds a glowing aerosol to her face and murders her with his special poison. 

After the Fringe team recovers Kerry's body, Walter displays a growing annoyance towards Peter, which he privately tells Kick-Astrid stems from Peter reminding Walter of the son he lost. Surprisingly, Kick-Astrid suggests that Walter should love Peter as if he were his son to be happy. At the airport, we see Neil as a TSA agent when Jared Colin (G. Michael Gray) walks through security. And Neil quickly writes down Jared's name as he passes by. Back at the lab, the two Fringe teams struggle to find a connection between the victims while Fauxlivia playfully taunts Walter about his feelings towards her.

In the airport parking lot, Neil confronts Jared and tells him that he will be paralyzed in the future and that it is better to die now. Jared fights back and he runs straight into the path of a car. Hearing about what happened, Olivia and Peter visit Jared in the hospital where he is now paralyzed as predicted. Jared also wishes that Neil had succeeded. Back at the lab, Kick-Astrid's gift for numbers and information pays off when she realizes that all three victims went through TSA with Neil as their inspector. But when Olivia and Peter arrive to arrest Neil, he flees behind airport security and manages to evade them.

Back in the lab, the two Astrids bond over coffee and Kick-Astrid admits that she felt that her father was disappointed that she couldn't love him more because of her condition. Although Kick-Astrid abruptly changes the subject, our Astrid is clearly disturbed by what she said. Meanwhile, Peter and Olivia learn that Neil was once an MIT professor who was profoundly changed by an experience at Reiden Lake, the same location that seems to factor into Peter's survival so many times. As they go to Neil's lake house, Peter explains to Olivia that Neil must be experiencing something similar to the Observers, who can see the whole of time simultaneously.

At his lake home, Neil speaks to his mother Anne Chung (June Kyoto Lu) and reveals that he overheard her say that he should have died with his twin years ago. As the FBI pulls up to the house, he compares himself to a savior by giving himself over to God's plan. Moments later, he aims a gun towards Olivia, who has no choice but to fatally shoot him. Back at the lab, Walter and Fauxlivia partially reconcile over their mutual love of candy. Kick-Astrid allows Walter to hug her before Astrid tells her counterpart that she is also distant with her own father and that it is not Kick-Astrid's fault. But back at her own home, Astrid is warmly greeted by her father, Stephen Farnsworth (Blu Mankuma); who has no problem expressing his love for his daughter.

Later, the Observers comb over Neil's home before discovering his device, which the Observer known as September (Michael Cerveris) lost years ago while trying to save Peter Bishop. The eldest Observer, December (Eugene Lipinski) is then told that September disobeyed his orders. Somehow, Peter Bishop is back despite being erased from this timeline.

Breakdown:

There's really no other way to interpret the ending of this episode. Astrid lied to herself — or rather, her other self — about her relationship with her father. And she did it out of love. Most of the other characters on "Fringe" don't seem to like their alternate counterparts at all. Part of the reason for this is that the alternate Olivia, Lincoln and even Walternate represent better versions of our heroes. Even when their motives were in question, the other Fringe team seemed like more emotionally balanced people. The alternates are far from perfect, but the comparison between them and our Fringe team is sometimes like comparing man to superman.

Kick-Astrid is different. While she clearly has a greater command over numbers and information, the price for that ability is her Asperger's syndrome. From Kick-Astrid's perspective, our Astrid must seem remarkable just for being able to interact with other people. And in Kick-Astrid's moment of emotional need, she sought out her counterpart for some solace that no one else could give her.

Aside from her initial horror, our Astrid demonstrated a great deal of compassion for her counterpart, to the extent that she seemed to regard Kick-Astrid almost as a sister instead of a twisted mirror. It's still telling that the two Astrids didn't embrace, because Kick-Astrid is still so emotionally removed. But Astrid clearly cared enough about Kick-Astrid's well being to spin a lie about herself just to make her counterpart feel better. If Astrid didn't care, she wouldn't have bothered.

This was Jasika Nicole's finest hour on "Fringe" and she has long deserved a spotlight episode. The one disappointing aspect of it is that neither Astrid played heavily into the main story aside from Kick-Astrid putting together the TSA connection. I would have enjoyed seeing one or both Astrids taking a leading role in the case, but Kick-Astrid's presence did give the audience a new mirror to reflect on our characters. It's probably no coincidence that Walter was so taken with Kick-Astrid that he hilariously said "I think I love her!". This Astrid was much closer to him in terms of seeing the world and being able to process his crazy theories. She's like the daughter he never had and her advice about Peter was actually pretty solid. Note that Walter needed to hug her to say goodbye and Kick-Astrid silently allowed it.

Kick-Astrid also had some amusing observations about Walter using Astrid as a surrogate and Peter's tendency to do everything for the Fringe team. It was just a few episodes ago that Kick-Astrid was staring at Peter like he was the first person to treat her with any warmth. If Kick-Astrid was capable of pursing a romance, that would be an interesting pair. As it is, Peter's frustration with Walter's scatterbrain was also palpable and his own annoyance barely stayed beneath the surface when Walter ordered him off of the autopsy.

Despite Walter's claim that Peter is just a reminder of his lost son and Peter's continuous quest to get home, neither man seems to realize that Peter is home. So far in "Fringe," we've only seen two universes and the current incarnations of each universe are simply changed by Peter's absence from history. In short, he has no home to go to, so this is it. Slowly, things have been bending back Peter's way. The Fringe team has accepted him again, he and Walter are back on speaking terms and even Olivia noted that he is a great partner near the end of the episode.

Of course that means that what Peter has regained could easily be pulled away once again. The coda improbably suggests that the Observers were unaware of Peter's return prior to this point. Even if it's explained that only September has been watching Peter since he came back, it's hard to believe that none of the other Observers didn't notice it immediately. As I recall, Peter's return was preceded by some highly unusual electrical magnetic activity that would usually draw the attention of the Observers.

The cliffhanger is actually picking up on a thread from the fourth season premiere in which September assembled a device to completely erase Peter's existence and he choose not to use it. Some viewers may not remember small plot threads from eleven episodes ago, but that's part of why "Fringe" is such a rewarding experience for people who stay with it and pay attention. The details do matter.

I wasn't quite as impressed with the killer of the week, but the mystery of Neil's methods and the subsequent connection to Peter's experience at Reiden Lake gave this standalone episode an unexpected connection to the series' overall arc. And I love it when that happens.

Crave Online Rating: 8.7 out of 10.